Several Gulf Arab countries that backed the opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and broke relations with Syria during the uprising that began in 2011 are publicly mending fences with the Syrian government. After Saudi Arabia reached a deal with Iran to restore diplomatic relations that was followed by moves to restore relations with Syria, there were suggestions that the Arab world may be ready to readmit Syria to the Arab League at a May summit in Riyadh. However, several Arab countries, including Qatar, don’t seem ready to welcome the Assad regime back into the Arab fold. Additionally, the United States and others are urging Arab states to demand more concessions from the Assad regime in return for normalization.
There has been a steady progression of normalizing ties between the Assad regime and Arab countries in recent years, but what spurred Saudi Arabia’s recent moves? And what role did the Saudi-Iranian agreement play in paving the way for such moves? How far can this process go under Assad, and what explains the different perspectives among some Gulf and other Arab countries? How is Iran responding to the Arab world’s turn toward normalization with its long-standing, previously isolated ally in the Levant? How has the United States responded to these recent steps, and will existing U.S. sanctions hamper further normalization efforts?